Why I Hate the Term “Indie Author”

Indie Author Day is coming up, and I will be giving a presentation for a local library on writing (as I often do). But I cringe whenever I hear someone call themselves an “indie author.” Here are some reasons why. Feel free to add your own (or refute mine) in the comments

No author works alone: “Indie” comes from independent, and there is no such thing as a truly independent author. While writing the first draft may be a solitary endeavor, everything after that is a group process. An author has beta readers, editors, proofreaders, layout artists, cover artists, promotional groups (like RaveReviewsBookClub, which I belong to), and so on.

To call yourself indie is to say that these people don’t matter. Of course they matter. They make your book better, and to say that they aren’t a part of the process is arrogance. You do not create a book in a vacuum.

What defines it?: When you label yourself something, you also say that you are not something else. Why add the qualifier? What’s the criteria? Is the difference being “successful?” Define that. Is it “being able to make a living on writing alone?” Look at some of the most famous and acclaimed writers out there. Everyone from Junot Diaz to Joyce Carol Oates to Vladimir Nabokov (and I can go on forever with this list) has worked as a teacher while writing. Even Neil Gaiman teaches at Bard, and George RR Martin edits on the side. I know a few writers with big contracts from major labels. They all work other jobs. Every writing professor I’ve had was also a working author with books published by major houses (one even had his book optioned for a movie). Writing as your only job is no criteria.

Is the criteria belonging to a publishing house? I have a publishing contract, and that doesn’t make me any different from writers that self-publish. Hell, my self-published stuff brings in far more money (though very little) that stuff from my publishing house.

What if you are a poet or short story writer exclusively? Most publishers don’t deal with these mediums. Does that mean that you’re not a valid writer? Screw that!

Indie has negative connotations: When a person hears “indie author,” they think “someone that isn’t good enough for a publisher.” We know that’s bullshit. Yes, I’ve read some terrible self-published books (usually those that went without a good editor), but I’ve also read some that are far better than what comes from Random House or Doubleday. When you call yourself “indie,” what are you really saying?

It creates an “us vs them” mentality: I’ve met a few “indie” authors that have animosity towards other writers. It’s not a competition. It’s not “us vs them,” it’s “all of us together.” We’re all trying to share a bit our soul, so why try to tear that down.

What I’m trying to say (and I hope I made my point) is that there are no “indie writers.” There are just writers. We all have stories to tell. Let’s stop segregating ourselves and show some solidarity.

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